United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
E. Conrad Chief United States District Judge
Peterson, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this
civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging that without his permission, employees of Red Onion
State Prison ("Red Onion") violated his
constitutional rights by providing copies of his medical
records to an attorney who made them public record. From
Peterson's allegations, the court finds no factual or
legal basis for an actionable claim under § 1983.
Accordingly, the court dismisses Peterson's action
without prejudice as frivolous.
claims in this case relate to actions the defendants
allegedly took in conjunction with previous lawsuits Peterson
has filed against Red Onion officials under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. In Peterson v. Barksdale. No. 7:16CV00146, he
alleged that officials had failed to accommodate his Asatru
religious dietary needs, leading to weight loss. In
Peterson v. Barksdale, No. 7:16CV00207, among other
things, Peterson alleged that officials used excessive force
against him, causing him physical injuries. Peterson
complains that in each of these cases, Defendant Phipps, the
Red Onion nursing director, without his permission, released
portions of his medical records. Peterson also alleges that
Red Onion investigator S. McDaniel "filed a report with
copies of [Peterson's] medical record." (Compl. 3,
ECF No. 1.) When Peterson discovered the unauthorized release
of his medical records, he complained to Warden Barksdale.
§ 1983 complaint, Peterson sues Phipps, and McDaniel,
and Barksdale, contending that the release of his records
without his consent violated his constitutional rights,
causing "health decline" and dam[a]ge done to
Ass[ass]inate [his] char[ac]ter." (Id. 4.) He
seeks compensatory and injunctive relief.
court is required to dismiss any action or claim filed by a
prisoner against a governmental entity or officer if the
court cannot identify any cognizable claims or the complaint
is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which
relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), (b)(1). A
frivolous claim is one "based on an indisputably
meritless legal theory" or one "whose factual
contentions are clearly baseless." Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989) (interpreting the
term'"frivolous" as similarly used in the
former 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)). Section 1983 permits an
aggrieved party to file a civil action against a person for
actions taken under color of state law that violated his
constitutional rights. Cooper v. Sheehan, 735 F.3d
153, 158 (4th Cir. 2013).
construing Peterson's complaint, he asserts that the
defendants' dissemination of his medical records violated
his constitutional right to maintain the privacy of those
records and defamed him. Neither of these claims has any
the United States Supreme Court nor any court within the
Fourth Circuit has recognized that inmates have a fundamental
constitutional right to privacy in their medical information.
Adams v. Drew, 906 F.Supp. 1050, 1058 (E.D. Va.
1995). Other circuits to address this issue have held
"that prisoners do not have a constitutionally protected
expectation of privacy in prison treatment records when the
state has a legitimate penological interest in access to
them." See, e.g., Seaton v. Mayberg, 610 F.3d
530, 534 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing other cases). Clearly, when
an inmate's § 1983 claims that officers'
unconstitutional actions have caused him adverse physical
effects requiring medical treatment, the state has a
legitimate interest in investigating the records of that
medical treatment and using the records in defending
themselves in that litigation. The court will summarily dismiss
Peterson's privacy claims as frivolous.
allegation that the defendants somehow defamed him or injured
his reputation by releasing his medical records also fails to
state any constitutional violation actionable under §
1983. See Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693 (1976)
(finding that "the interest in reputation asserted in
this case is neither 'liberty' nor 'property'
guaranteed against state deprivation without due process of
law"). Accordingly, the court will summarily dismiss
Peterson's defamation claim as legally frivolous.
reasons stated, the court dismisses Peterson's complaint
without prejudice as frivolous. The Clerk is directed to send
copies of this memorandum opinion and accompanying order to
 Court records reflect that in No.
7:16CV00146, in support of the defendants' motion for
summary judgment, Phipps submitted an affidavit, explaining
attached medical records concerning Peterson's recent
complaints about his weight, stomach pain, and digestive
issues. Court records do not reflect that Phipps has
submitted any affidavit ...